Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Day of Tourism in Granada

Today was a day to give in to the tourist center and let them take control.  We went to the office and basically said, "We need something to do today."  Out came the suggestions.  The lake next to Granada has 365 small volcanic islands, and those islands are navigable by a small boat tour.  We decided to do the boat tour of a few of the islands in the morning and a night tour of the most dangerous volcano in Nicaragua in the afternoon.

It was such a beautiful day today.  It was hot, as is typical for Nicaragua, but there was a light breeze blowing off the lake which did well to cool us off as we walked around the city looking for something to do.  As soon as we booked the boat tour and the volcano tour we needed to go change and grab our cameras because the tour was leaving in 45 minutes.  When we got back to the office just 5 minutes before departure we met a couple that we would share the boat with.  Malcom and Anne are from England and really are the typical English couple.  They speak conservatively, walk conservatively, and by all means they just scream conservatism.  Although their mannerisms scream conservative, their lifestyle for the past 4 years has been anything but.  They have lived as vagabonds ever since the economy tanked when they were given a severance package of 3 years pay plus benefits to walk away.  They kindly said thank you and packed their bags.

Since then, they have traveled almost everywhere: Nepal, India, Thailand, South America, North America, and everywhere in between.  They are one of the couples that you couldn't imagine would have taken such a risk at such an age to travel to some of the most uncomfortable destinations in the world.  But they did, and here they were on our boat tour.

The boat tour was definitely worthwhile.  We stopped at a colonial fort with cannons to protect Granada from pirate attacks when the city was under siege.  We saw private islands complete with mansions and helicopter pads from the elite of Nicaragua, including the owner of the local rum company.  We also saw a mansion that belongs to an ex-navy seal, which I deduced was bought by one of the seals who fought in the revolution against the Sandinistas.  We went to monkey island, which is an island owned by a veterinarian who takes care of five little monkeys who swing from the trees and wait for tourists to throw treats from the boats.  The variety of birds we saw would please any ornithologist.  We saw the national bird of Nicaragua as well as parrots, egrets, and herons.  Our tour guide was just the right amount of funny, which is a breath of fresh air from the normal overwhelming demeanor of the typical tour guide.

After the boat tour we said goodbye to the British couple.  It is always hard to say goodbye to a fellow traveler.  There is always a hope in your heart that you will see them again, but your mind tells a different future.  I told them we would be in Antigua in about a week and they said maybe we would see them then.  Malcom said, "You never know, we met a guy in India a couple years ago and just ran into him the other month in South America."  I told him that is "needle in the haystack type of stuff" and he agreed.

The night tour is four hours and leaves at 4 pm.  After the morning island tour we only had about 2 hours to kill until our next adventure so we got some lunch and prepared ourselves for another excursion.  Another girl that went with us on the boat tour decided to follow us on the night tour, so it was like seeing an old friend when we met up again at the tourism office.  We picked up a German girl that looked like Heidi Klum, a Dutch girl, and three American guys from Chicago and we were on our way.

Our tour guide David was an absolute riot telling jokes and laughing the whole way up the mountain.  He was very informative and you could tell he has been doing the tour thing for a while.  I couldn't help but smile as the Dutch girl asked every possible question she could think of.  She sounded exactly like Goldmember from Austin powers three.  The American guys were three witty recent dental grads that did a week volunteering at a "dentists without borders" type of organization.  If you could pay attention, their jokes were laugh out loud funny.  It was difficult for the non-Americans to keep up, which made it even funnier.

I was almost on the floor laughing on two occasions, one of which was because of the tour guide and the other because of the Chicago gang.  We were in a cave formed by lava flows that were bustling with bats and our guide began to tell us the significance of the caves.  The volcanic caves and the crater itself was considered part of the underworld to the natives and if something went right or when something went wrong, they would sacrifice warriors, babies, and virgins to the gods.  David the guide kept saying virgins over and over which was already giving me a good laugh just by the way he was saying it and then an older lady of about 60 years asked the question, "I wonder how the virgins felt about that?"  David gave her a serious look and said, "There's only one way to find out."  I immediately started busting out in laughter because I couldn't figure out whether David was trying to imply that she was the virgin.  As soon as I started laughing David started laughing and he couldn't keep going with the tour until I separated myself from the group for a couple minutes.

After that incident calmed down we were getting ready to leave the ritual site in the great room of the cave when David said, "Do you guys want to turn off the flashlights to see how dark it really is in here?"  We all agreed that that would be fun.  When we turned off our lamps, it was pitch black, like we were blind.  After a few beats of silence in the dark one of the Chicago guys said, "you know, this cave is so much better with my pants off."  I lost it again.

The volcano we went to see is called Masaya, but the most active crater I believe is called Santiago.  A super-volcano erupted millions of years ago and imploded to form 5 different craters and two active volcanoes.  It is rated the most dangerous volcano in Nicaragua because within like 20 km in a circle of the complex lives over 2 million people.  We watched the sunset at the top of the volcano while poisonous gases made us loopy from the lack of oxygen.  If you just listen to the volcano without any background noise you can hear it breathing.  Pressurized air is pushed in and out of the magma chamber and it sounds like a breathing dragon.  No wonder the indigenous thought it was the underworld.

After a long day of being a tourist, I was glad to get back to the hotel and gather myself with a shower and a shave.  I will be going back to Honduras for a few days to prep for my return to Guatemala.  It will be nice to sleep "in my own bed" for a few days.


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like the volcano trip was a real gas! (Ha, ha) The pictures are amazing, and I'm sure they dont even do justice.